Endless roads in the Tankwa
It was about 11am when we left for one of our offroad motorcycle tours. We carefully planned for this trip to also coincide with the new moon exactly as it would be for our visitors. Little did we know at the beginning of this route that the last minute Google mapping changes we made (only to include a spectacular mountain pass) was going to be the longest hardest day of all. What added to our wows, was the fact that our city sleeking bodies miraculously and very suddenly suffered of Alzheimer's. Our muscles had forgotten what it takes to ride on the dirt. All the challenges that come with city riding does not prepare your mind or your body for an unplanned extended journey like this.
We rode past Inverdoorn Game reserve http://www.inverdoorn.com/ and before long we reached the beautiful Amandelnek "kloof " Riding through the mountains with cliffs and overhangs and ravines. As we left the Kloof behind we were faced with a challenge. A massive dust storm sweeping across the dirt road, leaving everything full of sand. Our red beast quickly turned into a desert camouflaged sandy brown color and I am almost certain seeing a tiny pile of sand next to where my "client" placed his helmet.
The view halfway up Ouberg Pass is breathtakingly spectacular!
It was a near overcast day and the temperature a moderate 36 degrees Celsius by the time we reached Ouberg mountain pass. I am yet to research the name or details of this pass but my guess and logic would be to translate it directly: "Old mountain, mountain pass". Maybe because this pass was old, as if not being touched by modern day equipment for at least a good few years or if ever.. Nevertheless, this was the main reason for our change in plans and we did not regret a single moment. As I was told by a fellow rider: "this is probably the most spectacular mountain pass for an off roader in the whole of South Africa" Besides for the slight issue with my nerves being shattered completely it stands true to exactly just that. SPECTACULAR. It only has sufficient room for one vehicle, has sheer drop offs, a mix of sharp and longer corners, gravel, sand and some rocky parts, climbs for +/- a thousand meters up in only +/- 6km. This is a mountain pass that motorcycle dreams are made of. From here we headed towards Sutherland for our first overnight stay and reached our destination not a minute too soon. We were at the end of our lines. Tired, thirsty, dirty and our brains stuffed to the brink with amazing memories of an awesome first day route. Our hosts recommended a meal which seems to be the favorite of all their patrons and we were presented with the tradition that is uniquely Karoo. Karoo lamb chops cooked to perfection served with an over sized portion of fries and an extremely generous helping of mixed vegetables. A meal fit for an adventure rider tired to the bones.
Day two, and it was my turn to show this desert what I am made of. All geared up and
ready to go, I headed out of Sutherland on R354. My excitement must have gotten the better of me, because within 20 minutes I found myself waiting at the side of the road for my back up vehicle to catch up, all the while forgetting that he had to make some additional stops. This is reason number two for why I love this part of our beautiful planet so much. I must have been waiting for about 30 minutes and had about 10-20 local farmers driving past me, waving friendly, and not once did I feel scared, threatened or as if I am in some danger. Not that I am advocating to anyone to be naive about possibilities that something could go wrong, but as a lady rider it is of utmost importance that I feel safe, that I can ride where I want and when I want without fear. Here in this scorching desert I am free.
This day proved to be a cruise in comparison to the previous. We reached our first stop in Middelpos - (see http://karoospace.co.za/middelpos/ for more info) fairly quickly and I was amazed at how a little town in the middle of nowhere can operated in its own right. All access to this town is via dirt roads, but that does not hinder them in any way to proceed with normal life. There is a hotel, little supermarket, a service station with a quirky little restaurant boasting a very old coal/wood stove, and a police station. To top it all off, this little town has centralized post boxes...51 of it in total.
After our short stop at Middelpos, we put rubber to gravel en-route to our next overnight stay at a privately owned lodge (http://gannagalodge.blogspot.com/) in one of South Africa's National parks. The amenities
food, service and accommodation is most definitely world class. The venue offer surprises around every corner,
with old farm implements placed strategically as art pieces, various statues and a stunning wall mural. All of these well put together pieces just rounds this venue off to perfection. That night we were spoilt with a delectable menu to choose from and the saying "when in Rome..." was just so applicable again. "When in the Karoo..." well, you eat Karoo lamb off course!! Karoo lamb tail starter, Karoo lamb neck for mains and a home baked desert. Food fit for an adventure rider King! Whilst eating dinner, we were spoilt with a herd of Eland drinking water from the pool...the perfect end to an amazing day.
As I had not done a mountain pass on my trusted steed during this trip, it was decided that I will take one for the team by riding for two consecutive days. Within 3 km we reached Ganaga Mountain pass. This is a 6 km pass build as part of a public works program duringthe great depression in the 1930's. Yet another single road pass, boasting amazing views, a few sharp corners, and covered with loose stones and gravel. Luckily the 110km I rode the previous day aided in me getting my off road "boot-on" and into the groove of what these roads can throw at you.
Now, where in the world can you legally ride on a two wheeled motorized piece of equipment, smack bang through the center of a national park? Here is the Tankwa Karoo of course! The Tankwa National park https://www.sanparks.org/parks/tankwa/ is one of only 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world and one of only two that is completely arid. The park boasts 18 Geosites for visitors to explore, and is home to many plants and animals such as Cape mountain Zebra, Gembsok, Eland, Bowspit toritoise and at least 188 recorded bird species, whereof 18 of these are endemic to this region. All and all an absolute must for anyone visiting the Karoo. The road leading through the park is about 60km and everywhere is signs of the drought that has been stalking the Karoo for a good few years, but somehow this scorching dry desolate arid land seems resilient as it portrays a unique beauty nowhere else to be found on earth. It brings a warm fuzzy homey feeling that can only really be understood by experiencing the Karoo yourself.
At the Ceres Exit of the park we decided to extend our trip for another day and headed in the opposite direction from base camp to a biker haven close to the Africa Burn site. Much to our dismay we arrived at a place that looked completely deserted but we were soon met by Wilson who informed us that they have closed for 2 months due to the extreme heat. He was not lying. While my backup was trying to negotiate accommodation,food and a couple of cold drinks for the evening ,I saw my chance and disappeared to their pool to try and bring my body temperature back to normal. No wonder they close. The heat was insane! Now this tented camp that offers chalets as well is a must do for all bikers. I think better if you are single as it appears to be a party place of note...burned rubber on the bar and walls, rare biking paraphernalia and a (wooden box that reminds me of a ten commandments box) full of weird outfits and hats dawn this place. One can only speculate...maybe if we arrived just before they closed for the season we would know. Wilson however made sure that our thirst was quenched properly and our bellies filled to the brink with....none other than Karoo Lamb braai chops, wors and pap and gravy. He was super welcoming and nothing was an effort, even though they were actually closed for the season.
The next day saw us heading out early as we did not want to get caught in the heat again like the previous. A long stretch of dirt laid ahead, but the locals made for an interesting trip. Not sure if this would be their "company car" but they seemed quite content with not having a motor vehicle.
About 70km into our trip we reach our favorite "hang out" in the Tankwa or actually anywhere.
We are always welcomed with open arms, friendly people, good food and Ice Ice Ice cold drinks! Besides all of the above the added bonus is that Base camp is not far.
A well deserved rest after a hard day of riding, and a perfect end to our "Give me my Space" trip.
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Tankwa Tales - part 3 to follow